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What I Look for When Buying 2-Year-Olds at Auction

DATE POSTED:December 7, 2021

The 2-year-olds kicked off this year’s Western Bloodstock National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity Sales in a big way on Monday, Dec. 6, with one prospect selling for $700,000 and several others hitting six figures.

At last year’s NCHA Futurity Sales, a 2-year-old named Wood She B Magic made headlines when she sold for $1,050,000.

The 2-year-old market is hot, and buyers are all looking for the next big show horse. But, what qualities set the best apart from the rest?

Quarter Horse News (QHN) talked with SDP Buffalo Ranch owner Shane Plummer to find out what factors he seeks out in 2-year-olds offered at auction – and what are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a 2-year-old compared to younger horses.

This is the first in a series of Industry Insider With SDP blogs about buying Western performance horses at auction.

QHN: What are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a prospect as a 2-year-old at auction, as opposed to when the horse was a yearling or weanling?
Plummer: It has a full year in training, so you will have an exponentially better idea of its ability as a prospect than you ever will as a yearling or foal. Having said that, pricing will be higher and equity could be a lot lower. A $20,000 yearling could be a $50,000 2-year-old. Simple arithmetic, that is $30,000 in equity value.

Can a $50,000 2-year-old become a $80,000 3-year-old? Yes, of course. But maybe not. Maybe the bar has already been reached and the advance goes no further. 

I remember years ago, my father got really excited and bought a freshman sire’s first crop 2-year-old. Topped the NCHA Futurity Sale at $180,000. That horse went on to win $20,000. It was a major financial loss. Having said that, I saw Ichis My Choice sell for $300,000, I believe, and she went on to win $428,000 and become NCHA Open Horse of the Year. 

Ichis My Choice, pictured when she sold for $300,000 as a 2-year-old in 2014, went on to become NCHA Open Horse of the Year.
• Photo by Nina Rosenbeck.

I have purchased $10,000 yearlings and sold the prospect later for $100,000. I have purchased $100,000 yearlings and sold the prospect later for $225,000 or for $50,000 years later. There are no guaranteed outcomes. All of this is a risk. And, oh man is it fun. 

QHN: When you’re watching a 2-year-old sale horse work cattle during a preview or while it is being sold, what are you looking for? What do you want to see it do, and is there anything you don’t want to see?
Plummer: I want to see a horse that is enjoying what it is doing. I want to see it work the ground with a high degree of physicality and have no problem working off of its back end. I want to see a horse intent on its job and not have its face being jerked around. I want to see a horse that is attractive with its ears and showing me true intent. I want to see speed, power and grace. I want to see a linebacker that moves like a ballerina. 

Don’t ever forget about a diamond in the rough, though. Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick: weak, scrawny and slow. He is also the greatest player to ever step on a football field. Shows how much the experts know. This is an exciting game we play. Hope and dreams can come true.

QHN: How much does the training program the horse was in factor into your decision to buy or not to buy?
Plummer: Absolutely, it does. Look at the consistency and unequalled results of the dynamic duo of Todd Nelson as owner and Richard Jordan as trainer. Horses that have gone through that program include NCHA Futurity Open Champion, NCHA Horse of the Year, dozens and dozens of championships at all ages, and millions and millions of dollars won. I have never seen anything like it and I just want to rub their bellies for good luck.

QHN: When you’re looking at a 2-year-old sale horse, how much does pedigree factor into the equation on whether to buy?
Plummer: I am and always will be a breeder first and foremost, so pedigree is my number one. Only exception is if it is a gelding and then I am only interested in the quality of the individual or if it has collateral relatives to my own bloodstock. 

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